Moonsighting Calculation Method

The Rochdale Council of Mosques now follows Prayer Times according to Moonsighting.com.  Here is an explanation of how Moonsighting calculates prayer times (taken from www.moonsighting.com)

 

HOW MOONSIGHTING.COM CALCULATES PRAYER TIMES

Most Prayer Schedules available on-line lack some important fiqh considerations and result in wrong timings. Moonsighting.com took the initiative to educate the masses about the corrections needed, and provides the “Correct Prayer Schedule” for each prayer as explained below:

Prayer Times Definition We Use:

Fajr: Subh Sadiq (Fajr-al-Mustatir) when morning light in the sky spreads horizontally.
Sunrise: When the top of the sun’s disk just appears above the horizon.
Dhuhr: When the sun begins to decline after reaching its highest point (Zenith) in the sky. 5 minutes after Zenith.
Asr: When the length of any object’s shadow reaches a factor (usually 1 or 2) of the length of the object plus the length of that object’s shadow at Noon.
Sunset: Theoretical time when the top of the sun’s disk just disappears below the horizon.
Maghrib: Actual sunset considering 3 things (variation in refraction, area around the actual latitude and longitude considered, and any downward sloping ground towards sunset direction). 3 minutes after theoretical sunset.
Isha: Disappearance of Shafaq; Redness or whiteness.

Fajr & Isha are calculated by others using different criteria, all over the world. Some use 17°, 19°, 20°, or even 21°. Others use 90 minutes, 75 minutes or 60 minutes criteria. These criteria fail to calculate Fajr & Isha at high latitudes.

Above 48.5° (e.g., Vancouver, Canada), the sun does not go 18° below horizon on the longest day of the year.

Above 51.5° (e.g., Cambridge, UK), the sun does not go 15° below horizon on the longest day of the year. On other days, Isha calculated at 15° will give Isha time 2.5 hours after Maghrib. This becomes hardship.

Above 54.5° (e.g., Copenhagen, Denmark), the sun does not go 12° below horizon on the longest day of the year. On other days, Isha calculated at 12° will give Isha time 3 hours after Maghrib. This is even more hardship, so it is impractical.

Caution for Fajr & Isha:

Observations of Subh-Sadiq and disappearance of Shafaq at various locations on earth have confirmed that it is not right to calculate Fajr & Isha, assuming any fixed degree (whether 18° or 15°) or any fixed minutes (like 90 minutes or 75 minutes). Research and observations by Moonsighting.com members have also held this opinion for quite some time.

Observations at or near equator show that Shafaq Abyad occurs in about 75 minutes after sunset and Subh-Sadiq occurs in about 75 minutes before sunrise in all seasons. The 75 minutes at equator is equivalent to about 18° sun’s position below horizon. As you move to other latitudes, Subh-Sadiq and Shafaq occur at different degrees in different seasons. For example, in Karachi and Tando Adam, Pakistan (approx. 25°- 26° latitude) several observations have been made by Ulamaa’ and it was noted that Subh-Sadiq and disappearance of White Shafaq occur at about 15° to 16° in different seasons.

In Chicago, USA (about 42° latitude), Subh-Sadiq was observed at 111 to 90 minutes before sunrise (about 15.7°-17.4°) in different seasons. Shafaq Ahmer was observed at 76 to 57 minutes after sunset (about 12°-15°), while Shafaq Abyad was observed 98 to 77 minutes after sunset (about 13°-18°) in different seasons.

Limited observations were done in many places in the world [Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Tando Adam (Pakistan), South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Miami FL, Buffalo NY, Chicago IL, San Francisco CA, Tempe AZ, Houston TX, Washington DC, Toronto (Canada), High Wycombe and Dewsbury UK].

More observations were done in Blackburn, Lancashire, England (from September 1987 to August 1988) by a group of Ulamaa’. Although these observations were not for 365 days of the year, they covered every season.

A decade long research by Moonsighting.com found that any fixed degree is not correct for Subh-Sadiq or disappearance of Shafaq. The Subh-Sadiq and Shafaq are functions of latitude and seasons (day number of the solar year). All collected observations from different latitudes were plotted against day number of the year. With curve-fit technique, moonsighting.com came up with a function of latitude and seasons. In 2007 independent Muslim scientists in Pakistan also confirmed that degrees fluctuate with seasons.

A book of about 46 pages (8-1/2 x 11), “When to Pray Fajr & Isha” has been written by Muslim scholars/scientists giving arguments from Qur’an, Hadith, Fiqh, practices of Taba’een, scientific basis, observations for Subh-Sadiq and other details. Moonsighting.com algorithm for function of latitudes and seasons is not yet included in the booklet. This book is not yet published, but a hard (xeroxed) copy of the manuscript can be sent by postage mail (NOT by e-mail) upon request. Send your request by clicking on: E-mail us

Moonsighting.com uses the functions of latitude and seasons for calculating Fajr and Isha times based on observations. For Fajr, Subh Sadiq that is considered as (Fajr-al-Mustatir of Ahadith) when morning light in the sky spreads horizontally is used. For Isha, Imam Shafi’i, Imam Maalik, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, and two prominent pupils of Imam Abu-Hanifa (Imam Abu-Yusuf and Imam Muhammad) all prefer Shafaq Ahmer. Imam Abu-Hanifa prefers Shafaq Abyad. Moonsighting.com uses a combination of Shafaq Abyad in Winter and Shafaq Ahmer in summer. This is chosen to avoid hardship at higher latitudes, when Shafaq Abyad becomes too late in summer time. Transition from Abyad to Ahmer is used in Spring and fall seasons. However, if one prefers strictly Shafaq Abyad (Hanafi) or strictly Shafaq Ahmer (Shafi’i, Maaliki, Hanbali), it can be calculated also. These formulae are good up to the 55° latitude.

At latitudes between 55° and 65°, the rule of Sab’u Lail (1/7th of the night) is used, when other methods give times that become hardship for those areas. Hakim Ul Ummat Ashraf Ali Thanwi writes: ‘by splitting the night into 7 parts, a person can eat in the first 6 parts.’ (Imadadul Fatawa, vol 2, p98, 12/12/1322Hijri) This is a similar statement of 1/7th of the night rule by Allamah Shami in Dure Mukhtar. Mufti Shafi Usmani said: ‘This statement is presented via assumption, that in those countries where Subah Sadiq cannot be clearly distinguished (the UK in the summer months) it is permissible to act upon this advice. However, erring on the side of caution, one should stop eating 10 minutes before this time.’ Therefore, we calculate two things for Isha; disappearance of Shafaq and first 1/7th of the night. Isha time is earlier of the two. Similarly, we calculate two things for Fajr; Tabayyan (when morning light in the sky spreads horizontally) and the last 1/7th of the night. Fajr time is later of the two.

At latitudes higher than 65°, the sun does not set in summer, or does not rise in winter for a few or number of days. All Muslim scholars agree that whenever there is perpetual day or perpetual night for 24 hours or more, the prayer times during the affected days should be approximated. This is because the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “There will come a time when there will be a day like a year, a day like a month, and a day like a week…” The people asked him if during the day like a year, should they offer each prayer only once. He replied: “You should approximate the times.” [Sahîh Muslim]. Therefore, for such situations, a suggestion by Fuqaha’ is to calculate for nearest lower latitudes where the sun sets and rises, and that is used.

Moonsighting.com has received many Emails from its users regarding the objections for fixed degrees versus latitude and seasons based formulae.

Here is most recent Email from Abdelkader Tayebi of Windsor, Canada, confirming the time of observation for Shafaq Ahmer, that matched with Moonsighting.com calculations:
On Tuesday May 19, 2009, I was in St Joseph MI for business. I observed that Maghrib was at 9:05 and Isha with complete disappearance of shafaq ahmar was around 10:15. The disappearance process is not accurate to the minute and takes time to fully take place, it may be subject to the interpretation of the observer, a near disappearence started around 10:04 (shades of red on top of darkness), then around 10:11 there were only traces of dark red and by 10:15 it was more pronounced and the only left was the white shafaq, the same was noticed yesterday. So your calculations using a function of latitude and seasons are mashaAllah quite accurate. I will continue observing whenever I have chance inshAllah. From Abdelkader.

Zuhr in most Prayer Schedules is shown at Noon (which is before Zawaal). Noon time, when the sun is at its highest point, is Mamnoo’ (Prohibited) time for any Prayer. Theoretically, the sun does not go into Zawaal phase until its edges are out of the zenith line (line between the observer to the center of the sun when it is at Noon-phase). It takes about 1.5 minutes for the sun’s disk come out of zenith. Additional 1 minute must be added for a 30 miles radius consideration mentioned for Maghrib time. Thus, a minimum of 2.5 minutes must be considered as the minimum limit past Noon time for the beginning of Zuhr. Considering, that this precise theoretical definition is not given by any scholar, a little factor of safety (additional 2.5 minutes) is considered as a minimum for the beginning of Zuhr. Thus, 5 minutes should be added in Noon time for Zuhr.

Asr time calculations require different interpretations by different jurists such as Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maaliki, Hambali, or Ja’friyah (Shi’aa). For Shafi’i, Maaliki, and Hambali, Asr is calculated when the shadow of any object becomes equal to its length. For Hanafi, Asr is calculated when the shadow of any object becomes twice its length. For Ja’friyah, Asr is calculated when the shadow of any object becomes equal 4/7 of its length (as given to me by a follower of Ayatullah Sistani).

Maghrib should be calculated at least as 3 minutes after theoretical sunset (reporetd in newspapers) for the following considerations:
1. The effects of actual humidity, temperature, and pressure in the atmosphere may cause a different refraction of sun light than assumed in calculations of theoretical sunset.
2. In some areas there could be a downward sloping ground towards western horizon that causes a delayed sunset for an observer compared to a perfectly level ground as assumed in calculations of theoretical sunset.
3. For major metropolitan cities, the sunset in a 30 mile radius from the point assumed in calculation will vary. Since the people may live all around the city, this may delay sunset for some areas. These are the considerations for the 4 major Sunni school of thoughts. For Ja’friyah school of thought, 17 minutes after sunset is considered as Maghrib time which is considered enough for the bronze glow on the horizon to disappear.

Qibla direction: Every day, there comes a time when any vertical object’s shadow from the sun is in the Qibla direction. If that does not happen then there is a time when facing the sun gives you Qibla direction. Either of this time is provided for everyday in Qibla column after Isha. This method for Qibla is more accurate than the compass, which involves errors due to the presence of magnetic fields or metallic objects, and magnetic declination which causes compass needle to magnetic North which could be up to 100° off from True North; how many degrees off depends upon the location.

 

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